Analytical Development for Microplastics: The IMPACT Project

Environmental monitoring and research relies heavily on the availability of robust, reliable and affordable methods to target, detect and accurately quantify the analyte of interest. E&H continues to work on developing such methods.

One of the current initiatives is in collaboration with the VU LaserLaB, within the framework of the IMPACT Project. The aim is to develop methods that can ultimately be applied to a wide variety of matrices ranging from environmental samples to food and beverages etc.

Detection methods that are based on the intrinsic molecular characteristics present in the materials provide a reliable way to find out if plastic particles are contaminating a given sample. Raman scattering spectroscopy is capable of identifying materials based on their molecular structure. Through analysis, a spectrum or “fingerprint” of the analyte is obtained. However, signal acquisition is relatively slow and the signal is often overwhelmed by fluorescence caused by impurities or pigmentation present in plastic particulate waste. Alternatively, a technique known as stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) provides a stronger signal (enabling much faster mapping), while relying on the same vibrational modes as spontaneous Raman scattering. This technique is being further developed for the application of plastic particle analysis. SRS images give information on the size and identity of polymer materials detected in the sample. Ultimately, our goal is to apply SRS for in-flow detection of plastic particles.

TA-COAST Project: IMPACT "In-flow multidimensional particle analysis/characterization technology (IMPACT, NWO 053.21.112 2014-2019)

Contact: Liron Zada l.zada@vu.nl and Heather Leslie heather.leslie@vu.nl